Out with the old, in with the old at the USFWS?

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar named a new director of
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday. Sam D. Hamilton by
all accounts has been a smart, career public servant who takes his
job seriously. I’m sure he has the stellar credentials to ensure a
quick confirmation. You can read the complete, unedited
USFWS release below.

In some waterfowling circles this afternoon, however, there’s
been chatter about yet another USFWS director with no experience on
the duck breeding grounds. A native of Mississippi, Hamilton has
been director of the Service’s Southeast Region for 12 years, since
Jaime Rappaport Clark appointed him during the Clinton
Adminstration. Agency employees don’t like to admit it, but the
USFWS ultimately is all about managing migratory birds. The
extensive work that has occurred at wildlife refuges and WPAs on
the American side of the Duck Factory the past 25 years has been a
driving force in ensuring that duck hunters up and down the flyway
don’t see empty skies each autumn.

Politics has influenced duck management more than most outdoors
writers or government bureaucrats care to admit. In my time at
Outdoor News, we’ve seen Southern lawmakers (led by
Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott) push for biologically questionable
longer seasons. And instead of directing a majority of Duck Stamp
toward the north-central United States where they could accomplish
the most – on the breeding grounds – a disproportionate amount of
those monies heads to the southern United States. (I interviewed
past director Dale Hall at the SHOT Show in February 2008, and he
didn’t like it very much when I pushed him on the issue of Duck
Stamp expenditures.)

So here we are with yet another Southern lad whose first
priority, I fear, won’t be biology, but rather looking out for duck
hunters south of the Mason-Dixon line. I hope I’m wrong, and
readers can look forward to Outdoor News grilling Mr.
Hamilton on these very points the next time he passes through
Minnesota – or perhaps sooner.

Finally, serious birders may recognize Hamilton’s name from the
ivory-billed woodpecker story a couple of years back. He chaired
the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Recovery Team executive committee after
the bird’s shortlived “rediscovery” in Arkansas. Beyond preserving
some green space acreage for wildlife and recreational activities,
the IBWP effort and search turned out to be the biggest ghost-chase
this side of Bigfoot. I don’t blame Hamilton for that, rather the
birders who – in this scribe’s opinion – probably never saw an
ivory-billed in the first place.

Welcome aboard, Mr. Hamilton. We waterfowlers here in north
country look forward to working with you.

Secretary Salazar Lauds President’s Intent to Nominate
Sam Hamilton as director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife

WASHINGTON, D.C.  Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today
praised President Obama’s announcement that he intends to nominate
Sam D. Hamilton to be the next Director of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service. Hamilton, a career senior biologist and manager
with the Service, currently is director of the agency’s Southeast
Region, The nomination requires Senate confirmation.

“Sam has vast experience with every aspect of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service’s mission, making him an ideal nominee to direct
the agency,” Salazar said.  “Throughout his career, he has been an
innovative leader in developing new conservation initiatives and
resolving complex and controversial environmental issues. He will
be a strong advocate for sound science and effective management of
our nation’s fish and wildlife.”

Hamilton, who has been with the Service for 30 years, was
appointed Southeast Regional Director in Atlanta, Georgia in 1997,
serving as senior operating executive with full strategic planning
and management responsibility for a $484 million budget and a
1,500-person work-force that operates in 10 states and the

As regional director, Hamilton has been responsible for the
oversight and management of more than 350 federally listed
threatened and endangered species and 128 national wildlife
refuges. He has provided leadership and oversight to the
department’s restoration work in the Everglades, the largest
ecosystem restoration project in the country, and oversaw recovery
and restoration work following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which
devastated coastal wetlands, wildlife refuges, and other wildlife
habitat along the Gulf of Mexico.

Hamilton’s leadership fostered creative solutions and innovation
that led to the establishment of a carbon sequestration program
that has helped biologists in the Southeast restore roughly 80,000
acres of wildlife habitat.  His emphasis on partnership bolstered
the Service’s fisheries program and helped establish the Southeast
Aquatic Resources Partnership to restore vital aquatic habitats
across the region.  This partnership is a key piece of the National
Fish Habitat Action Plan.

Prior to becoming regional director, Hamilton served as
assistant regional director of the ecological services in Atlanta
and the Service’s Texas state administrator in Austin.  

Hamilton graduated from Mississippi State University with a
Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 1977.

Categories: Rob Drieslein

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